History

Observation DeckThe Wild Animal Sanctuary is the oldest and largest nonprofit Sanctuary in the US dedicated exclusively to rescuing captive exotic and endangered large carnivores, providing them with a wonderful life for as long as they live, and educating about the tragic plight faced by an estimated 30,000 such animals in America today.

Established by Executive Director Pat Craig in 1980, Rocky Mountain Wildlife Conservation Center, DBA The Wild Animal Sanctuary, is a state and federally licensed zoological facility and a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization. Originally started on Pat’s family farm outside Boulder, CO, TWAS soon moved to Lyons, CO, where there was more room for the animals, and to provide for future expansion. After eight years in that location, TWAS was forced to move again due to a limestone quarry moving in nearby. The Sanctuary currently sits on 720 acres 50 miles east of Boulder. There is plenty of space for the animals’ 21 large acreage habitats, along with room to grow while still maintaining large grassland buffers.

TWAS is now located near Keenesburg, Colorado, and we are open for visitors year round, daily, 9am-4pm, except major Holidays and bad weather. During summer, from Memorial Day to Labor Day, we extend our hours from 9am – sunset.

The Sanctuary is located on rural, rolling grasslands northeast of the Denver Metro area. Comprising 720 acres and sheltering more than 290 Lions, Tigers, Bears, Leopards, Mountain Lions, Wolves and other large carnivores, it is the first sanctuary of its kind to create large acreage species-specific habitats for its rescued animals.

Since January, 1980, The Wild Animal Sanctuary has responded to nearly 1,000 requests from private citizens and government agencies to rescue animals from across the United States and in Mexico. Our furry residents were abused, abandoned, illegally kept, or were victims of other terrible situations.

At TWAS, the animals come first! Providing expert care and rehabilitation, exceptional diets and enrichment, and large spaces in which to roam make life for our rescued animals the kind of life they would have if they could choose it.

Education about the Captive Wildlife Crisis…its causes and solutions…is critical to changing social consciousness today, in order to provide a better future for captive wild animals. TWAS welcomes visitors, school groups and organizations to our Education Center at the Sanctuary, and also has a Speakers Bureau whose members do presentations for a variety of businesses, universities and other organizations.

A shocking statistic about America’s Captive Wildlife Crisis…the illicit exotic animal trade is the third largest source of illegal profits in the world today, just after illegal drugs and weapons! In the U.S. alone, there are an estimated 30,000 captive large carnivores living outside the zoo system. There are 4,000 Tigers living as “pets” in private homes in just the state of Texas – more Tigers than exist in the wild throughout the world. Countless other Great Cats, Bears, Wolves and other large carnivores live in abusive conditions in roadside stands, circuses, magic acts, traveling shows, and other substandard situations. Untold numbers of animals suffer and die each year due to neglect, abuse or because they are abandoned and left to die, starving and alone.

Public Safety is also a serious issue. Every year, people get hurt or killed by captive wild animals that have not been properly housed, or because the people were allowed to be in unsafe situations by the animals’ owners or keepers. TWAS is called upon by local, state and national law enforcement agencies to ensure public safety in situations where the public and/or animals are at risk.

The three main points of our mission…to rescue captive large carnivores who have been abused, abandoned, illegally kept or exploited…to create for them a wonderful life for as long as they live…and to educate about the causes and solutions to the Captive Wildlife Crisis…these things are what we commit to for the animals, and for the humans who help to make a positive difference for them.

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